Response to Attorney General Sessions’ June 11th Decision for Asylum Seekers

This Monday, June 11th, 2018 Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the precedent set by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) four years ago and issued a deeply upsetting decision in the Matter of A-B- case, preventing asylum seekers who are survivors of domestic and gang violence in their home countries from seeking protection and asylum in the U.S. On behalf of the Mount Sinai Human Rights Program, we join judges and fellow immigrant rights advocates across the country who are condemning Attorney General Sessions’ decision and taking action against it.

Specifically, Sessions reversed the BIA’s’ grant of asylum to a Salvadoran domestic violence survivor in a case known as Matter of A-B-. Ms. A.B. fled to the United States after suffering 15 years of brutal violence at the hands of her ex-husband. He beat and kicked her, including while she was pregnant; bashed her head against a wall; threatened her with death while holding a knife to her throat and while brandishing a gun; and threatened to hang her.

Under U.S. and international law, our country is obligated to provide refuge to people like Ms. A.B. who suffer persecution in places where the state is either unable or unwilling to intervene and offer protection. In ruling against Ms. A.B., Sessions overturned the BIA’s decision of 2014, which affirmed that domestic violence survivors are members of a particular social group that have been persecuted, and that they are deserving of protection. In his decision Sessions makes the disturbing statement that, in accordance with his opinion, asylum claims “pertaining to domestic violence” should “generally” no longer be approved. See his full statement here.

At the Mount Sinai Human Rights Program, we provide medical and psychological evaluations for survivors of torture and human rights abuse, write medical affidavits documenting this abuse, and ensure access to continuity care and ongoing support to people like A.B. everyday. We often find ourselves listening to stories like hers, which seem unimaginable; stories of trauma, of abuse, of torture, and most of all, of resilience. As medical experts in these cases, we document psychological and physical scars and attest to the traumas that clients have experienced, which often make their return to their home country decidedly life-threatening. And as human beings we feel, personally, the obligation that this country provides protection to those who have suffered greatly and are at great risk if returned back to their countries of origin. We find Sessions’ decision to be shameful and immoral.

To stand with us and take action against this decision, we urge you to take advantage of this toolkit provided by the CCRG (Center for Gender and Refugee Studies) and to speak out against this action.


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ADVOCACY 

The MSHRP uses its advocacy capacity to mobilize students and faculty to promote interventions that enhance human rights and social justice. In collaboration with coalitions and partners our program engages in community outreach to survivors, strives to empower them, and ensures that their voices are heard through just and sustainable policies on asylum and immigration detention.  Some of our partners are the NYC Refugee and Asylee Health Coalition (NYCRAHC), the Cara Project, and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).